Strained relationships between employees and executives cause up to 80% of workplace conflict, according to a study by the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management. As a leader, you play a major role in helping your team to work smoothly together.
Teams usually bring together individuals with different backgrounds, personalities, and viewpoints. It’s natural and inevitable that they’ll sometimes disagree.
How you handle those conflicts determines their impact. If they’re left to fester, they can lower productivity and morale. On the other hand, they can increase cohesion and spark innovation when dealt with successfully!
Conflict resolution is part of your job description. Learn how to negotiate differences and reduce office tension.
Resolving Conflicts Step-by-Step
It’s important to give employees a chance to sort things out for themselves. However, you may need to intervene if their disputes interfere with work or carry on for too long.
Follow this process to help restore peace:
1. Meet privately. Talk with both sides separately. Listen to their versions of the events with an open mind. Try to avoid making assumptions or taking sides.
2. Gather information. At the same time, do your own research to verify the facts and collect more details. Check relevant documents, like work records and policy manuals. If appropriate, ask other team members for their input.
3. Facilitate a conversation. Now you’re ready to bring both parties together to find common ground. Summarize the situation as you see it and let them weigh in. Focus on finding solutions. If things get stalled, present your own options and alternatives.
4. Develop an agreement. Finish up by creating a plan of action. Each party needs to commit to making specific changes. Put your understanding in writing, so you’ll have a record to refer to later.
5. Review progress. Follow up to see that things stay on track. You may be able to consider the matter settled or you may need to start a more formal procedure.
Many workplace conflicts can be prevented.
Use these tips for taking a proactive approach:
1. Increase communication. An open and empathetic work culture can help employees build healthy relationships that stand up to most challenges. Share information with your team. Institute an open-door policy where employees can discuss issues with their supervisor with no repercussions.
2. Monitor workloads. Employees are more likely to bicker if they’re under too much stress. Provide adequate resources and reasonable deadlines for completing projects.
3. Clarify expectations. Uncertainty about roles and responsibilities can cause anxiety too. Set specific objectives and agree on measurable results. Give constructive feedback regularly.
4. Be fair. Your team is more likely to trust and respect you if you follow the rules consistently. Use objective criteria to make decisions instead of playing favorites.
5. Address underlying issues. Conflicts often involve more than the single complaint that brings them to the surface. Maybe you can make systemic changes that will benefit the organization. Maybe you’ll discover personality clashes that have been limiting cooperation.
6. Hire wisely. Conflict resolution is a shared responsibility, so hold each team member responsible for their part. You can start by incorporating it into your recruiting process. Ask questions about handling disagreements during interviews and reference checks.
7. Provide training. Invest in your team by helping them upgrade their capabilities. Training often starts with self-evaluations to see where they need to grow. With practice, anyone can become more adept at managing their emotions and maintaining two-way conversations.
Disagreements will arise, so it’s important to work on your conflict resolution skills. Lead the way to creating a safe and respectful workplace where each employee feels valued.